Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Got Any Ideas? They Don't Matter. Writing Does.

Ideas cannot be copyrighted. The copyright law protects “unique expressions” of them, not the ideas themselves. The same thing is true about titles. For instance I went shopping for “The Gift: The 12 Greatest tools of personal growth—and how to put them into practice by Shad Helmstetter, but when I asked the clerk if “The Gift” was in stock, she came up with “The Gift: A Novel by Richard Paul Evans.

A title is like an idea and not the author’s own unique expression. You would need to read the book to discover that. However, titles are very important and can help sell your book but that is another post.

Don’t discard any ideas just because you read a book with a similar idea or watched a movie with the same thoughts as yours. Those ideas could be the topic of your block buster novel. “American Graffiti” could have been MY story. It was so typical of my generation and I used to think writing about car hops on roller skates would be dull but then no one has read about my experience.

Express your ideas in original ways and from your perspective. You and I can look at a painting and when asked to give a critique, what do you think would happen? If you really want to protect your idea, you can turn it into a finished manuscript. Then you can register it at the Copyright Office. According to Harold Underdown’s FAQ’s he says the "Poor man's copyright" -- mailing yourself a copy of your manuscript so that it gets a postmark--will, I understand, do you no good.

Harold Underdown of The Purple Crayon has a great article and some FAQ’s on copyright law. Read the post here.

Write it down,


  1. Dearest Carma,

    You are full of info. I haven't thought about copyright stuff in ages. Do you like to review older books? My son loved Harold and The Purple Crayon. My daughter's favorite was The 12 Dancing Princess which no on seems to have heard of but is a beautiful story, mythical.

    POSTED AT 6 AM??? WOW!

    xoxo, Lisa H.

    P.S. Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my blog every day. It means a lot to me. Glad you like the ne look, it is your template.

  2. Hey Carman,

    Thanks so much for this wonderful post. Your 'ideas" are insightful. you really provide us with a window in which to anlayze our thought processes.

    Sometimes we are so absorbed with the product that we forget about the glimmers of ideas. That's why there's outlining and index cards! Hooray!

    Excellent post. I love your writing style.


    "Building a teacher's community one step at a time"

  3. Hi Carma,

    Excellent post. Ideas - no matter they are our own! We don't all share the same "ideas" about the same topic.

    Great way to put it out there.

    Take care,

  4. Hi Carma,

    It can be discouraging if we realize there's nothing new under the sun. Everything's been written about. It's the perspective that makes it different.

    Wonderful post.

    Lisa Kirby

  5. Hi Lisa H. I like reviewing older books. I am working on an ebook of reviewed Newbery Winners right now. And when this post was posted at 6 A.M. I was asleep.

    I am glad it was you that caught that. My intuition told me that someone would notice. True. As I typed the time in the little box I knew. I am not trying to fool anyone but you can do this too. This way your blog post is placed early in the morning as many readers do their reading early.

  6. Thanks for the kind words Dorit. I want my info to be fresh to my readers.

    Judy for every idea sparked there are thousands of implementations. One of them has to stick somewhere. Thanks for the comment

    Lisa Kirby, when I was a kid I used to hear people say that there were no more frontiers to discover. Well I think they were proven wrong. And we know that everything has not been written because you and I have not written our story yet.

  7. Wow Carma! I had heard about mailing yourself your ms from several different experts as full-proof copyright protection. It pays to keep informed about these things.

    Thanks for the info.,

  8. Hi Carma, This is a very useful blog. This post is something a lot of writers worry about, so it's good to see you address it. Dorothy

  9. Hi Carma --

    Brenda Ueland said, "Everyone is talented, original and has something important to say." We may have ideas similar to someone else's, but everyone's expression will be unique! Your post is a good reminder of that -- thanks!


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